Mares’ Hurdle Cheltenham target again for Quevega

WILLIE MULLINS insists his brilliant mare Quevega is likely to compete against her own sex once again at Cheltenham next year after completing a hat-trick in the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle last week.

The seven-year-old barely came off the bridle in the Grade Two contest and plenty have called for connections to let her take on the boys in one of the championship hurdle races.

But Mullins sees little point given there is already a race which obviously suits her so well at the showpiece meeting.

“She’s run so little in her life and the couple of times she was beaten she was wrong,” said Mullins.

“I think she’ll go for the mares’ race again at Cheltenham next year. It looks made for her, so why go for something else?”

Mullins confirmed that Quevega would not be heading to the Grand National meeting at Aintree, and would instead bid for back-to-back victories in the World Series Hurdle at Punchestown.

Mullins enjoyed an excellent Festival with Hurricane Fly winning the Champion Hurdle and Sir Des Champs and Final Approach clinching competitive handicaps.

“Sir Des Champs is a lovely horse and he’s a chaser, but hopefully he’ll have another run before the end of the season,” the champion trainer continued.

“We’ll have a look at Punchestown and he’ll want something over two and a half miles plus I would think.

“Final Approach is a better horse than I thought he was and he’s a real little professional.

“He went to Cheltenham with little experience but he was still able to get down and mix it with those really experienced handicappers.

“He just kept pulling it out and Ruby (Walsh) never gave up on him.”

Mullins remains at a loss to explain the lifeless display of Kempes in last Friday’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Irish Hennessy winner was considered a major player in the blue riband event but was pulled up, having failed to get competitive at any stage.

“I think he’s all right, but we’re just getting the vet to have a look at him,” said the champion trainer.

“He was never going at any stage and I’m trying to figure out what was wrong.

“Whether I put the tongue-tie on wrongly or whether the girths were too tight - he just never seemed happy from when he jumped off.”

So Young was considered one of the bankers of the meeting by many in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, but finished third behind First Lieutenant and Rock On Ruby.

Mullins is now considering a step up in trip for his talented five-year-old.

“So Young will probably go for a staying novice hurdle at Punchestown and I think he’ll stay hurdling next season,” said the trainer.

Highly-regarded duo Mikael D’Haguenet and Quel Esprit failed to complete the RSA Chase but are likely to remain over fences.

“I think they’ll stick chasing, although we’ll have to decide if Mikael just doesn’t jump fences as well as he jumps hurdles,” Mullins continued.

“We haven’t got around to talking about that yet, so we’ll see, but Quel Esprit is a chaser.

“We’ve just got to fine tune tactics with him, but he just made up so much ground over his fences and he gallops so well.

“We just haven’t worked out what’s the best way to ride him.”

A couple who did live up to expectations in major events were Golden Silver and Mourad.

The consistent Golden Silver placed fourth in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, while Mourad found only Big Buck’s and Grands Crus too strong in the World Hurdle.

“Golden Silver ran a fantastic race and he’ll probably come back to Punchestown. I couldn’t have asked any more from him,” the trainer added.

“Mourad did everything that was asked and I don’t think we left one pound behind us there.

“He could improve from six to seven. He’s handy enough so he’ll stick to hurdling and we might mix it on the Flat with him as well.

“He could go for something at Ascot, or something like the Ebor at York.”

Mullins’ smart staying hurdler Fiveforthree is out for the rest of the campaign after the recurrence of a tendon injury.

The nine-year-old grey, winner of the Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2008, ran well for a long way until weakening into eighth place behind Big Buck’s in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle last week.

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